By McKenzie Romero
In Aurora, Colo., which by community estimates is more than a third Latino, none of the 12 midnight moviegoers killed in the July 20 Century 16 Theater massacre were Latino. Nor were the several initially identified in media accounts as injured. No official list of the 59 hospitalized by 24-year-old gunman James Holmes was immediately released.
Aurora’s Latino community was quick, however, to reach out to survivors.
David Sánchez told the story of his daughter and son-in-law in theater 9 when James Holmes opened fire.
Caleb Medely, Sánchez’s son-in-law, remains in a coma following a gunshot to the head. His wife Katie, Sánchez’s 21-year-old daughter, gave birth to a son July 24 in the same hospital.
The Medely’s story became widespread when Sánchez spoke to reporters outside the Arapahoe County Courthouse about Holmes’ court appearance and his daugther’s experience. He called the suspect’s eyes “demonic.”
Among Aurora’s Latino community, many churches and community organizations are reaching out to any seeking counseling, including the Queen of Peace Catholic Church. The church is one of Aurora’s largest and is about two miles away from the Century 16 movie theater.
The church serves about 7,000 families in the Aurora area and about 50% of the congregation is Hispanic, according to Queen of Peace business manager Steve Loftis. Queen of Peace has kept to its regular mass schedule and is helping to coordinate grief counseling for any community members seeking help.
Loftis said no members of the Latino congregation were injured in the shooting, although some of the church’s members remain hospitalized.
The Rose Community Foundation and its Latino Community Foundation out of Denver will be waiting in the wings to provide counseling to Aurora residents, law enforcement or anyone else requesting support.
“We went through something similar with Columbine,” said Sheila Bugdanowitz, the foundation’s president.
“It’s a complicated time for organizations. Everyone wants to help (Aurora residents), but they don’t even know what they need from us.”
Yolanda Quesada, managing director of the Community Latino Foundation, called Aurora, an area where 95 different languages are spoken in public schools, “one of the most diverse metro areas” in Colorado.
“Even organizations working with immigrants will be working with all kinds of immigrant groups,” she said.
Morning-after coverage online included a story by New America Media reporting that immigrant communities in Aurora had “panicked” as they sought to get word about the victims. However, a Denver-based reporter quoted in the story said in his blog that the article did not paint an accurate picture.
Francisco Miraval, a reporter with Vision 21, said much media coverage was “distorted” and that panic among immigrants “never happened.”